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The Wisdom of Anger

Updated: Nov 1, 2023

"Anger" is a large umbrella term for an array of emotions like annoyance, frustration, rage, irritation, resentment, contempt, and spite.

Anger is one of our greatest teachers.

Anger is a defense mechanism--it tells others to stay away.

Think of an angry person. Often times their teeth are bared or being gritted, their fists are clenched, and their posture is usually leaning forward, entering the space of another. All of these physical signs are saying, "Get back. I will attack. I am in control." Anger is serving the purpose of defending one's self.

If anger is a defense mechanism, the natural thing to be curious about is: what am I defending?

The most tender parts of us, or the things that matter most, are at the core of our spirit. I will argue that when you feel anger, you are attempting to protect this tender part, whether you are doing so consciously or subconciously.

When you feel angry, the question you can ask yourself is: What deep part of me is at risk here?

What tends to lie below the emotional presentation of anger are things like grief and loss, guilt and shame, a challenge to beliefs or values (feeling judged or feeling betrayed), or a threat to your sense of connection or belonging or identity.

Once you can identify what deep part of you is at risk, or worth defending, you have a place to nurture and send light to--you may begin to engage in forgiveness work or nurture your capacity for self-compassion, or you may decide to be more intentional about shaping your beliefs and values, letting go of the ones that no longer fit for you and inviting in new ones.

Let me illustrate an example for you:

If, in a heated discussion with a close friend, they tell me I'm being negative, I would become angry and resentful. I hold positivity and light in a high regard and I work hard to not be judgmental, negative, or a dark cloud for others; therefore, being called "negative" would challenge my beliefs about myself and the high value I hold for being positive. I would also feel judged, unfairly perhaps because we are only human, and I would be experiencing a sense of loss over how I thought others perceived me to be.

If I am able to reflect on my anger in the moment or later that day, and ask myself what is at risk or what is worth defending, I would be able to identify those hurts and give myself an area to send light to. I would be able to accept that I had maybe said something negative in our discussion, but that it did not define me as "a negative person." I would be able to cultivate self-compassion. I could work on forgiving myself for not being perfect. I could work on forgiving my friend for making a judgement toward me. I could challenge my belief about "positivity being best" and see if I need to adjust it or if it still fits with my life experience.

If you find yourself being angry, frustrated, irritable, resentful, or rageful often, it is time to take a deeper look at your spiritual needs. Your anger is trying to teach you and it will get louder and louder until you receive its message.

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